Are you underemployed?

Are you too good for your job? Does it stretch you and reward you? If you hadn’t had children would you have been promoted by now?

I want to talk about underemployment, the idea that we are doing jobs that our abilities and qualifications surpass.

I’ve seen many of my friends in jobs that don’t match up to them, but they stay, why? Because they have returned from maternity leave to their old jobs, reducing their hours (but often not workload) and there is no chance of promotion unless they go full time.

I have heard it in many a conversation- a feeling that we should be grateful for part time hours, that we couldn’t find another job like it, when what we actually get is less money, less chance of progression and less respect.

There is research that men get a ‘fatherhood bonus’ at work, whereas women get a ‘motherhood penalty’.

How can we change this, how can we ensure that women’s skills and abilities are fully utilised and rewarded, whilst also recognising the demands of caring for young children?(Don’t get me started on ‘Mental Load’ that’s another 10 posts worth…)

I have voted with my feet. I was not content to stay in a job that made me unhappy, and not prepared to commit to a new full time career when my children are so young and exhausting. But withdrawal of labour does not further women in the workplace.

I think there may be a less drastic answer, and that is job shares. Job shares are a way of ensuring a role is covered full time, whilst offering part time hours for the employee. Unfortunately these are not widespread, in fact even in the public sector I’ve only seen one at a high level- Chief Executive, but they were both men, without childcare responsibilities. Go figure.

How about you, what do you think?

One Reply to “Are you underemployed?”

  1. I think job shares are a great idea but underused. I don’t know a single person who is in one. In my sector (the charity sector) a lot of roles are well suited to it, or they could quite easily be divided up into 2 separate part-time roles. But management often seems to view flexible working as nothing more than an inconvenience, and maybe job share is seen as the more extreme end of flexi working. It’s a shame because if more workplaces pursued it, I think there would be some great advantages which would outweigh the initial effort and the bit of extra cost required. Such as happy, motivated people, better staff retention, and more skills and experience in the team.


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